Severin Films recent Blu-ray special edition of Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman’s Jack the Ripper (1959) is ambitious but compromised; the atmospheric horror film is presented in three different versions, all of which have serious issues with the transfers (print damage in one case and incorrect aspect ratios in the other two). More satisfying, technically and creatively, is Severin’s Blu-ray edition of Richard Stanley’s typically idiosyncratic documentary The Otherworld (2013).
Rachel Low’s multi-volume History of the British Film, written in the late ’40s and early ’50s, provides a vivid portrait of a new, complex art form being invented moment-by-moment.
Another random sample of recent viewing, from Ken Russell’s debut feature French Dressing through Andrew Bujalski’s retro-video experiment Computer Chess to David Mackenzie’s Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water.
Criterion’s new Blu-ray release showcases Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years (2015), a subtle character study with career-best performances from Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as a married couple whose settled lives are disrupted by an event which predates their relationship.
Hammer Films are, of course, best known for launching the modern era of horror with their late ’50s colour reworkings of the Universal classics from the ’30s, beginning with Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). These movies, colourful, somewhat perverse for the time, and more graphic than earlier films in the genre, inspired Roger […] Read More
The pleasures of black-and-white cinematography are on full display in Ken Hughes’ The Small World of Sammy Lee; shot on the streets of Soho and the East End by the great Wolfgang Suschitzky, this story of a small-time entertainer and compulsive gambler desperately trying to raise cash to pay off a gangster is a finely observed depiction of the seedier side of pre-Swinging London, shot through with bleak humour and the tentative possibility of redemption.
2016 was an impressive year for movies on disk, with a wide variety of new and classic releases, prestige productions and exploitation, and some interesting rediscoveries … too many to pick just a handful of “bests”.
Sometimes sharing a favourite movie doesn’t produce the reaction we expect; it can be puzzling, even a little painful to discover that a friend doesn’t always like the same things we do.
Two new BFI releases, Peter Hall’s Akenfield (1974) and Andrew Grieve’s On the Black Hill (1988), view the 20th Century through the relationships of people in rural Britain to the land, evoking physical hardship and timeless mystical connections.
Two excellent recent Blu-ray releases from the BFI illuminate the extremes of high and low art in British film of the early 1970s. Ken Russell’s version of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love is exemplary literary adaptation, while Don Sharp’s Psychomania is … well, something else again!